In a setback to the CPI(M) and CPI, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that six of their MLAs in Kerala must be prosecuted for damaging Assembly property while protesting against the budget presentation in 2015. The bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah ruled that “committing destruction of property cannot be equated to freedom of speech in the House” and that the six legislators must face prosecution under the Indian Penal Code and Prevention of Damages to Public Property Act for damaging Assembly property in the name of protest.
The court dismissed the special leave petitions filed by the State of Kerala and the six accused legislators and upheld the Kerala High Court’s March order, reported Live Law. The High Court had earlier upheld the Chief Judicial Magistrate’s order dismissing the prosecutor’s petition seeking withdrawal of prosecution.
The apex court bench further ruled that the privileges and immunity granted to the MLAs and MPs in the houses of legislature/ parliament are not a “marker of status which makes them (legislators) stand on an unequal footing”. The court added that these privileges and immunity were not “a gateway to claim exemption from criminal law and that would be a betrayal to citizens”.